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Gordon Holmes: That, my friend, was quite a Tribal Council.
Jason Linden: Yes it was.
Holmes: Classic Vokai all said you’d be willing to go to rocks, which is what I would have said to an alliance I was trying to break. But, what would you have done if it went to a tie?
Linden: I would have gone to rocks. The idea was twofold; the first was we were playing a zero-sum game and the team that was more likely to go to rocks was the team that was more likely to get someone to flip. The second part of it was the Vokai people I had left in the game. I got swapped with three of my top four alliance members. So, it wasn’t like I got swapped with people I didn’t have a good relationship with. Going further in the game, you need your top alliance members to take your next steps. Flipping on them would be a signal to other people that as close as you think you are to me, I will stab you in the back. It was way too early in the game to stab one of your best partners in the back.
Holmes: It’s still so early though, I don’t know if I could have done it.
Linden: The idea of going to rocks…was something that Lauren had said, “Absolutely not.” If you’re here to survive another day? Flip. You’ll be on the bottom of that alliance. But if you’re actually trying to win the game, it’s way too early to stab one of your best friends in the back.
Holmes: Elaine pulls out that idol and then there is a lot of whispering between classic Vokai, Missy, and Aaron. What was being said?
Linden: It’s Elaine. The reason the whispering was necessary was because when we were going into Tribal Council, Elaine was not our vote. Once Elaine pulled out her advantage we had to recalibrate and regroup. We’d only have three Vokai votes, so what’s our best option to get that fourth vote? We had to put some kind of trust into Aaron. If we could get him to follow through with his backstabbing of Elaine. What was happening was that we were back on the same page of going for Elaine. And if Missy or Aaron wanted to flip on Elaine, they could do so.
Holmes: Who was the original target?
Holmes: Was the plan for Aaron to vote for Elaine and classic Vokai to vote for Aaron. So, if he flips on classic Lairo he goes home and if he doesn’t you go to rocks?
Linden: Bingo. If he votes against us, it’d be four votes on Jason, four votes on Aaron. Then a revote where we try to get Elaine and Missy to flip on Aaron, which I believe they would have.
Holmes: I know you probably don’t know exactly when Elaine told Missy and Aaron about the advantage, but was there any point where you noticed a change in Missy and Aaron’s demeanors? Did your Spidey Sense go off?
Linden: It was a complete change. You kind of see when Elaine tells Aaron and Missy about the advantage…they’re kind of confused. If they were so set on a four/four rock draw they would have been jumping for joy. But, the advantage caused a lot of confusion for Missy and Aaron. They got a lot quieter around camp. You saw him thinking a lot more about what to do. The conversations about them flipping to vote for Elaine got a lot shorter. And there ultimately ended up being more of a standoffish feel. Even to the point where the Lairo people were sitting near one hammock and the Vokai people were sitting near another. It got to the point where it seemed like they weren’t going to flip at all. I got the feeling that I was in a whole lot of trouble.
Holmes: Did Noura tell you about what really happened at the Island of the Idols?
Linden: (Laughs) No. While we were buddies in the early game, after the Molly vote I told her I think it’s best if we create some separation. We kind of went different ways. We’d still talk, but we were working on integrating into the tribe. I’ll let the audience decide who did a better job of that.
Linden: I think one of us did a better job. When she came back from the Island of the Idols, I pulled her aside and tried to find out what had happened, because clearly she was in hot water. I wanted to help her get whatever it is she was trying to get so we could use it for the both of us. I tried to talk to her twice and she said “No” twice. So, at that point my and Noura’s relationship had changed. I viewed her as a potential ally, but not one of my go-to people.
Holmes: How was the decision made that she would no longer be the caller at the blindfold challenge?
Linden: Noura comes back from the Island of the Idols with this fakakta story. Everybody was super skeptical of what was going on. She runs away crying at one point because none of us trusted her. We said we’d give her a practice dry run and it is a wreck. She can’t get Dan from one side of camp to the other side of camp. She has Tommy going all the way outside of camp. The coconut that she was supposed to get him to pick up was ten feet in front of her. This was a total mess. I showed Noura how to do it, and after that people came up to me and said, “You have to be doing this. You need to be the caller.” I was hesitant because I didn’t want to put myself in that hero role just yet. But at the same time, I felt really good with where I was with the tribe. We tried to have Noura be a blindfolded person, and I don’t know if she was not listening or trying to sabotage what I was doing, but we all came back together and a bunch of us came to the conclusion that she was going to be a liability on the course. She might even be trying to purposely sabotage this. The best thing to do will be to sit her out.
Holmes: Did she know before you went to the challenge?
Linden: She didn’t know. When Jeff asked us, all of the sudden Lauren pipes up with some attitude and says, “Noura, it’s you.” And immediately I’m like, “Oh yeah! Oh my God!” When she said that I knew it was a moment.
Holmes: Alright, word association time. Let’s start with Lauren.
Linden: Clifford the Big Red Dog.
Linden: So nice.
Linden: (Laughs) Unique.
Linden: The best person ever.
Linden: Good natured.
Linden: A thinker.
Holmes: It had to have been tough to fight your way up from the bottom and then get cut down by an advantage in a vote that could have gone any of four ways. How’ve you come to terms with that?
Linden: When you go out to play “Survivor,” one of the goals is to pick your spots to play. You don’t want to be pedal to metal on day one. You’ll either run out of gas or people will be on to you before day 39. Because of my poor start, that forced me to play the game within the first 15 minutes. And I didn’t want to do that. Because of that, from day one to sixteen, I had to play the game hard. Playing the game hard doesn’t mean being the person who’s making the calls and the moves. But, it’s constantly checking in with people, making sure that the target isn’t on you. I won challenges, I went to Tribal Council, I led my tribe to victory. I did a lot with my sixteen days there. Ultimately, an unexpected and extremely lucky advantage took me out of this game. But, I had the opportunity to experience a lot of what the game has to offer. Unfortunately, I’ll miss the merge, the family visit, and final Tribal Council. I got a full experience out there, but it left me wanting even more. It’s a crazy way to go out of the game. It wasn’t something I perceived to be a possibility. I left knowing I was a target. But, the cards were stacked heavily against me. That’s life. You’re going to win some and lose some.